2013 Not over yet, my annus horribilis

Referring back to an earlier post (http://wp.me/p2r95A-7b) i cant help but think what a great year 2012 was, in hind sight! Comparing this year to last is maybe a mistake, as these things can be, but it is also a great way of looking back and realising the year is not as bad as you think. Admittedly 2012 was a nasty year and this year has also been challenging in so many ways, it has also been a good year. My mums cancer is under control, she will never be cured because of the type of cancer it is but the maintenance drugs are doing their job and she is in a stable phase. Chris seems to have his neurological pain under control but his leg has been poorly, thrombo phlebitis is not nice, neither is having a venous bleed either. It is also very scary! It has on the other hand been great to have him at home, being together and he has been able to write. (velvetmedia@wordpress.com) The girlfriend from hell hung on for over 2 years but has finally gone and my son seems ok with it, i just wish he knew what he wanted from life. The other 2 kids are doing ok, not giving too much trouble.
So what is the annus horribilis bit about? Well apart from cancer, death, lack of money, all of the usual suspects in so many peoples life at the moment, i have also had health issues. I have had fibromyalgia (http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Fibromyalgia/Pages/Introduction.aspx ) for so many years, and because i am looking after everyone else it has flared painfully. I take the tablets, exercise how i can but i am putting weight on which affects my arthritic knees and hip which causes pain and depression. Photography has been my Savior, getting away from caring and loosing myself in our beautiful countryside with Chris has been such a boon.

I feel my photography has come on in leaps and bounds, i love using photoshop and photomatix not to hide the bad photos but to create art, i have beautiful images where i have used these programs and beautiful images where i felt they were great on their own. I have met some lovely people either on my outings or fellow photographers, i have also met some people who think far too much of themselves, the cliquey who wont let you play with their groups because your not one of THEM, but SO WHAT there are so many lovely people out there who WILL help you and to them, well thanks! Chris and i went to a photography networking day yesterday in Manchester with REDEYE and met a lovely group of people, of course there were a lot who already knew each other but for those who knew no one we were made most welcome. the talks given by the photographers were interesting and informative and the work we took was warmly received and there were many favorable remarks made. I cant wait for them to hold another day, in Liverpool this time. There really isn’t much longer before New Year and i hope for me, my family and friends and you too, that it will be good, creative wise, health wise, financially and that the troubles of 2013 can be put behind us.

So notable things so far this year, hmmm thinking, i received the book one of my photos was printed in, I had a photograph in the Williamson Art Gallery, several of my photos have been in the local papers, I have a photograph in the MAP Black Pearl exhibition in New Brighton and i have been asked to donate two photographs to help raise money for an upgraded path to our local War Memorial.
On another note i have taken on different duties with my scout group, i am now assistant group scout leader and am mentoring the new scout leader which means i am going in the right (upward) direction, i also want to start district work and hope the ADC for Beavers will allow me to help her so i can gain experience in that area.
My hopes for the next twelve months, i want to make a book with Chris. I think we could collaborate on a beautiful poetry and photography book, i feel they are becoming a popular genre and am sure we can pull something together fairly easy, where we will find a publisher im not sure but if i ask enough people surely someone will know. So keep an eye open for news on the book as i am sure we will give it 100% to see it through to the end and sat on coffee tables world wide.

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Autumn appeared in some unexpected places but nowhere nice to photograph

So we have had the longest day and it is getting darker earlier as we head into winter. Did i get my ultimate autumnal photograph? Well in a word NO! I have looked and looked, there have been some beautiful trees here on the Wirral but they were in totally the wrong places. I would drive along the road and see lovely colour, yellow, gold, brown, red but at the side of a boring road or in someones front garden where it made an uninspiring image. So i will have to be content with the images i have managed to get and wait 12 months for next autumn. I gave it a good shot and tried different places and these are what i think are my best.

 

 

 

 

There are others i could choose but i like these, especially the leaves. I am now going to turn my camera lens towards Winter images, so bring on the cold, frosty mornings, oh yes and the snow!

What makes an image?

A good question. Does it mean, what is in the image, who took it, what did they take the image with, how did they process the image or how did they ‘see’ the image?

My secret, ‘shhh’ is that i ‘see’ the image i want to create, only in my head. I think it stems from art college and being told to ‘see’ the image i wanted to either draw or paint. So this means i have to travel around the Wirral, where i live, trying to ‘find’ my image. Once it is ‘found’ i then set about recreating the image from my mind and i may do this by ‘bracketing’ my exposures and using photomatix to merge the images or waiting for the ‘right’ kind of weather conditions. There may be a bit of post production using photoshop, or not. I use a Nikon D3100, so i manually bracket the exposures, occasionally i may get a good image with my phone camera, they do go through photoshop as they are generally either over or under exposed.

I feel sometimes that unless you are a ‘name’ then it doesn’t matter how good your images are and its a kind of snobbery, if you haven’t had the exposure and your name isn’t known then no one will take a chance and say ‘ well hey, actually this image is pretty good!’ This is a shame as there are plenty of unknown’s out there waiting to make their ‘name,’ its such a slow process.

Here are two images of the same lighthouse, can you tell which is the bracketed image and which not?

Image

Image

I want to be able to recreate the image my eye see’s rather than just a flat replica of what is in front of me, so i have been experimenting with what makes an image and i have decided that i ‘like’ the end result of ‘bracketing’ exposure’s and combining the images. The images seem more alive, they have more depth, so for me, at the moment, what makes an image? is best answered as ‘being able to see the image, using exposure bracketing and then combining the images together with photomatix and a little bit of photoshop too.’  It’s a bit more complicated than just point and shoot but i think it is so worth my while. I just wish people would buy my work!

If you are interested in bracketing exposures and how it works, this is a great article.                       http://www.thephotoargus.com/101/how-to-use-bracketing-in-your-photography/

An experiment with ISO

Today the house is quiet, (apart from the plumber as we are having a new bathroom installed) so i decided to have an experiment with the ISO settings on my camera. I have an image in my mind that i am working towards, i think i need more experience behind the camera before it will come out, please keep in mind i have only been using a digital camera for the past 10 months, so i have been taking bracketed photos of my hearth at different ISO to see what would happen. (I do know, i just want to SEE it)
So for those in the know, skip this part or add your own comments. What is ISO? Not to make me look stupid i went to http://www.geek.com/digital-camera-buyers-guide/iso/ and asked them. Their reply was ‘Simply put, ISO is the measurement of a camera’s sensitivity to light. The higher the ISO number the more sensitive the sensor is. A higher ISO number means that a camera will be able to shoot images in conditions with less light. ‘ But we know that a high ISO means noise BUT can that noise be useful in a photograph or not? Below i have five photos of my hearth each bracketed to a correct exposure, -2, +2 and using a different ISO setting. I then loaded them into photomatix and used the tone mapping and creative button.

This image is at 100ISO

 

 

 

 

 

 

This image is at 200ISO

 

 

 

 

 

 

This image is at 400ISO

 

 

 

 

 

 

This image is at 800ISO

 

 

 

 

 

 

and this image is at 1600ISO

 

 

 

 

 

 

The images become more and more ‘noisy’ especially in the blacks, so i guess that is why we always use 100ISO if possible!

I used tonemapping as i want to get as close to the image that our eye see’s as possible, this is why i am experimenting, i want to be able to produce HDR images that look like the real deal, not something thats been tinkered with in photoshop. I think i am getting there, i know that at some point i will need to update my camera for one that automatically brackets the exposures as you do get movement when you do it manually. But for know i am content to experiment and hone my skill with what i have.

Finding the flavors of Autumn

Sunday and Chris and I are off driving around Wirral on a lovely sunny day, we wanted to find the flavors of Autumn, the colour, the crispness, the floaty leaves, the beautiful reflections. Cough cough, can someone tell the trees in Wirral its time!
We went to Rabymere, its owned by the Angling Society people so you cant walk around it and anyway the trees were still green, we went to Dibbinsdale Nature Reserve, green trees, we went to Portsunlight in Bromborough, better but not great, we went to Caldy (mega rich big houses, i could tell you its where my Dad grew up but the wrong impression would be gained. He did grow up there but was the gardeners son 😉 ) We went to Arrowe Park which was also ok. BUT not what i wanted. Am i too early for autumnal colour? Will it happen or is it going to be a ‘damp squib’, come on trees put on your Autumnal shades, Canada and America will not outdo us! anyway i can’t afford to go there just now. I think i will leave it a little longer and try again, you never know it may be we are just having a late Autumn.
If that is so, one thing, why are the trees alongside the roads changing colour? Pollution?


Night photography?

Last night i got ‘itchy feet!’

I wondered how i would manage taking photos at night, in the dark. So, as Chris (my husband is @clawfish) was at work and i had said i would pick him up at 9pm, i decided to wander down to West Kirby early and while waiting go and take a few photos, in the dark!

I had spotted that the Wro restaurant had plenty of people in, so decided to go there first. I had an idea of what i wanted to accomplish so set up my camera on the tripod across from the restaurant. I figured that if i started with a 3 second exposure and work from there, bracketing the shots, then i would surely have something to work with as i had decided i wanted to have an HDR effect for this picture. So just as i am setting the shot dont a gaggle of giggling women just have to walk in, around, under and over my view point. Sorry’s all around as they click clicked across the road and finally i can take the shot. I wanted car lights in too so i waited, didnt have long, and took the shot. (There is the cereal killer thing again) I have processed the pictures now and have come out with a b/w and a colour HDR picture.

I then wandered down to Marine Lake as i had an idea for the promenade that i wanted to see, if, it would work.  As i walked down to the sea, well river Dee, i began to realise just how dark  it actually was. Im not one to get spooked easily but when i heard multiple young voices i began to wonder if i was doing the right thing, going into a dark place with my camera equipment, on my own.  But it was a group of supervised kids walking through West Kirby, once through the gaggle of gossiping kids i then walked to the water and immediately what comes to mind? Sharks and wasnt it a good job they dont come out on to the land but the image of jaws jumping out of the water and snatching me off the walk way wouldnt go and i wasnt anywhere near the water, such is my imagination.

I set up to take some timed exposure shots of the promenade down towards the sailing club on the water side of the lake, i started with a 3 second exposure and ended with a 30 second exposure, i bracketed the exposures and after processing i have ended up with these.

As it was really dark i found it quit difficult to focus the shots and processing them i know i have ended up with quite a lot of noise, that is something i need to figure out how to clean up but overall i feel pleased with what i have accomplished and i am definitely going to  be going out in the dark again, though next time i may just take Chris!

Escaping the mad house

I had an urge to escape the mad house i call home, i craved the peace and quiet of my own company, a letting go of the responsibility of  being a wife, mother, carer. So i grabbed my camera and my new tripod, the other one fell to pieces after only a few months. Side line, i bought a Manfrotto tripod which is pretty neat. And i headed down to Gilroy Rd nature reserve.

Over the last 12 months or so i have been photographing specific scenes there, a gate which i find fascinating, a stand of trees, the pond, all at different times of the year and using varying techniques.  The sun was shining and it was a lovely day, not overly hot or cold either, the sky was a deep blue and the clouds interesting shapes, how i was looking forward to solitude and my own company. First up was the gate, i had decided to try a multiple exposure HDR  technique as i was pretty sure it would look really great and just as i am setting up for the shot, well lets just say all of the dogs on my side of the Wirral decided to take their owners for a walk. I HATE taking photos when people are watching me, i feel like my privacy is being violated, so i waited and taking my time took the shot, sounds like a cereal killer 😉

I dont know about anyone else but when i am in photographer mode i look at things in a different way, all of a sudden even the smallest of things took on a different view and i was quickly taking  photos of anything that took my eye. I wandered down paths and around bends stopping at interesting views and looking at the wildlife flashing past too fast for me to photograph. I was so enjoying the peace and tranquility that i was very startled when a young lad walked around the bend in the path carrying his fishing gear, nearly tripping over me as i am kneeling down, butt up, trying to focus my camera. I dont know who was more embarrassed, me or him! It turns out a dozen lads had decided that the day was too good to waste on computer games and thought it a good idea to fish the pond, even though they know, im sure, that the pond is a no fishing pond. Still, they were not disturbing anyone other than the fish and i dont think they were all that successful anyway.

Several wonderful hours later i wandered back home to my responsibilities again, i felt so much better after my ME time and i knew i had several good shots, i only had to pries my laptop from a childs hot sweaty hands and i could transfer them off my memory card and ooh and ahh over the images.   I decided to use photomatix to merge the images and photoshop to tweak them, its an ongoing thing but i am very happy with what i got out of the afternoon. Below is a sample of my work, there are other images on my flickr page http://www.flickr.com/photos/klawrenceuk/ if you want to see them through the year, I hope you enjoy them, if you do, or not, please leave a comment.

A chance find on youtube and Photomatix Pro is my new toy.

On Monday i dragged my poor husband Chris (clawfish) down to New Brighton. Why? Because we had the most fantastic high tide at mid day combined with high winds, sunshine and beautiful cloudy sky’s.  I have recently stumbled upon a youtube video of a guy teaching a group of photographers how to make HDR photos in Photomatix Pro. I have been using photoshop and the HDR tool in that program, however i was not getting the results that i wanted.  I wanted outstanding images, i know you need great images to start with and i knew i could get those but how would i get the finished image that i craved. And then along comes BHphotovideopro and shows me in a short video what i needed to do.     So taking my poor husband, my Nikon D3100, which i have just discovered does not take bracketed exposures :(, and my tripod we headed off down to Fort Perch lighthouse knowing we would come home with some great images. What we didnt realise was that we would also come home covered in sand, froth from the water and with totally windswept hair.(Well me not Chris, he is a bit follicly challenged, sorry Chris.)  I was so excited to load the pictures onto my laptop. I shot in raw as i believe this is the optimum for your images, opened them in Photoshop Bridge and was really pleased at my results. I chose the three images i needed, loaded them into Photomatix Pro and let it do its thing. A couple of the images came out, well wonky but I got six images that i am so pleased with, i know they need some work in Photoshop but until i figure what to do with them, then they are the best HDR images i own. I have shared them on facebook and twitter and had a lot of views and likes, one thing bothers the hell out of me though, why doesn’t anyone comment on them! How do you learn if no one tells you their opinions on what you produce. I would love to hear what they think and feel i am grown up enough not to be gutted when the idiot tells me he can do better than me, lol. So, if you have a comment, can give me constructive advice, i will appreciate it, give it a go and if it works, great. If you dont like my work tough! Its my style, my take on the genre and really i am the only one who has to be proud of what i produce.  Take a look at the images, feast your eyes on the wonder of New Brighton beach and please, let me know what you think. Thanks. x